There are still misconceptions in the business world about workers with disabilities, but if you want greater productivity and engagement, inclusion is the way to go.
If not, you could be missing out on an important talent pool that has benefits for business.
Jason Barker, deputy CEO of the Australian Network on Disability, told HC that there were still misconceptions around what was involved in hiring workers with disabilities.
He said that some employers were concerned about the kind of workplace adjustments they might have to make to accommodate a disabled employee’s needs, but in reality, such adjustments were often minor.
“I think the average adjustment is about $400 and in fact, there’s a government program called Job Access which pays for most adjustments. So the employers often don’t have to pay anything anyway.
“There are good case studies around the place where things like safety, productivity and staff turnover are actually better with employees with disabilities.”
According to the network’s statistics, more than four million Australians have some form of disability, which equates to one in five people.
Of those, 2.1 million are of working age.
Barker said things like workplace flexibility, which is becoming common practice in many businesses, could be all that’s required to accommodate a worker’s disability.
“It might be that there is no other adjustment except that using public transport is difficult and if they could maybe work from home on a Friday, that could really set them up for the week ahead.”
He said it was a matter of considering the attitude and level of determination that such employees provided.
“They can be overcoming things just to get to work. The desire to get and keep a job is really strong. The engagement is there when someone with a disability does get a job.
“A lot of our members look for people with disabilities as a talent pool. It’s quite competitive in terms of getting graduates with disabilities into organisations. They’re actively looking for people with disabilities.”
He said often things like internship programs changed employers’ attitudes about workers with disabilities and their abilities.
Australia Post employs 2,249 workers with a declared disability and Diane Utatao, the organisation’s national diversity and inclusion business partner, said that since it launched its first accessibility action plan in 2012, it was focused on improving access for people with disabilities to job opportunities, products, services and facilities.
It recently launched a new disability awareness training resource called Work Mate, designed to improve disability inclusion in the workplace.
“Our objective is to highlight examples of our inclusive culture, break down stereotypes, focus on ‘abilities’ and empower our employees to feel more confident working with their colleagues with disability,” said Utatao.
What benefits have you experienced from hiring workers with disabilities?